If you’re reading this article, you probably interested in building muscle. Unless you looked up to Peewee Herman, what man hasn’t been interested in building lean, rock-hard, muscle that makes women swoon!
While there is plenty of “how to build muscle” articles on the internet, there aren’t enough that discusses how muscle is ACTUALLY built. That is why there are so many men who are not maximizing their muscle-building potential. Are you one of them? If so, then read this article carefully as we discuss the science of building muscle.
The Makeup of Muscle
Before we learn what it takes to build muscle, let’s briefly discuss the make-up of muscle. There are 3 types of muscle: smooth, skeletal and cardiac. The one we are discussing is the skeletal muscle.
Skeletal muscle consists of muscle fibers (which are single large cells) that contain myofibrils, in which are bundles of actin and myosin filaments organized in a chain of repeating units called sarcomeres. Muscle fibers main task is to contract in order to operate your joints (e.g., moving your arms and legs). Hope you’re still with me!
The Process of Building Muscle
When fellas say they want to build muscle, they are usually referring to sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Sarcoplasmic hypotrophy is when the muscle swells in size due to fluid buildup in which is glycogen storage. To induce sarcoplasmic hypotrophy, you have to lift weights for a high number of reps (between 6 to 12 reps) for 1 to 3 sets.
Your muscles can also grow due to myofibrillar hypertrophy. Myofibriallar hypertrophy occurs when you increase myofibril size (i.e., the muscle increases in strength). To induce myofibriallar hypertrophy, you lift weights for a low number of reps (between 1 to 5 reps) for 3 to 5 sets. While both produce different outcomes for your muscles, they are focused on the same thing: muscle hypertrophy (i.e., building muscle).
Building Muscle Size vs. Building Muscle Strength
The consensus is that bodybuilders favor sarcoplasmic hypotrophy, while powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters focus on myofibriallar hypertrophy. Which should you choose to do? Which is truly better for muscle growth?
The answer is both of them if your goal is to build bigger, dense muscle. To incorporate both of them, alternate periods (4 to 6 weeks at the minimum) where you focus on building muscle size and strength respectively for just a few sets per muscle group 3 to 4 days per week.
Challenge Your Muscle for Growth
How can you build muscle without challenging them? The answer is you can’t. Challenging your muscles by placing stress upon them is the only way they will grow and get stronger. The best method to do this is called progressive overload. Countless studies have shown this as the most effective way to build muscle.
Progressive overload will have you gradually increasing your reps and/or weight every time you do an exercise again. So if you have been bench pressing 135lb for 3 sets x 12 reps since 1992, then progressive overload will have you doing them with 145lb. If you desire to shift your physique into muscle-building mode, then challenging your muscles is a must!
Overall, this is the science of building muscle. Be sure to train not just between the 1 to 12 rep ranges, but go over 12 reps occasionally. Also, be sure to consistently eat a well-balanced diet and get at least 8 hours of sleep per night to maximize your muscle-building potential. Now go out there and ACTUALLY build some muscle!